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How to Deal with A Negative Person

My daughter was having challenges with her boss.  Despite her best efforts all she got was verbal and non-verbal criticism. “I don’t like that…you need to do it my way…you’re not good enough.” Although she is naturally a positive person, every time her boss came around her shoulders would sag, her nerves would tighten and her day would turn downward.  This went on for weeks then months till she finally felt that either she or her boss would explode.

What does one do when facing a boss, spouse, neighbor, friend, parent or child who is constantly negative? How does one maintain his/her sanity and health when the relationship pipe is clogged with gray mass?  The experts say that when we are experiencing stress we will respond with fight or flight.  Those who choose not to fight often find that the stress will eventually erode their mental, spiritual or physical health.

If you are in this situation you may choose to act in one of the following ways:

Plan A. Check it out.  Ask: “George, have I done something to offend you?” Now listen.  Dr. David Burns suggests the formula of “UNDERSTAND, AGREE, NEGOTIATE.”  You might say, “Let me see if I understand where you are coming from. I agree in these areas. Is there something I can do to make things better?”   You may want to role play with someone to prepare for this kind of an interaction.

Plan B. If I am in a hostile environment, can I challenge my boss’s accusations? Can I request a meeting where I can have an advocate present?

Plan C. Could it be that the grass may be greener at another job? Or with another friend?  Look at all your options and write a list of the advantages and disadvantages of staying in your present situation. Now imagine worst case scenario, “If I got fired or I quit, what would I do?”

Remember, when we are flying on an airplane they tell us to put the oxygen on ourselves before helping someone else.  Perhaps now is the time to begin breathing deeply yourself!

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